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Monthly Archives: December 2017

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Why Cycling is the Perfect Activity for a Man’s Midlife Crisis

My friend and old sponsor had his annual Christmas party Saturday evening.  He’s lost 50 pounds in the last six months.  50 pounds!  Listening to him talk about how he’d done it (weights and elliptical), I was inspired all over again for my love of cycling.  Riding a bike (actually several of them) is my answer to a midlife crisis.  Some men cheat on their family (I’d say wife, but they cheat the whole family, kids and all, if we’re being honest).  Others turn to motorcycles, sports cars or snowmobiles (or all of the above).  Still others travel or get into some form of fishing…  Cycling ticks all three major boxes for me – still, after six years, I can’t imagine another way of wanting to maintain my fitness and sanity.

This shouldn’t be confused with taking the place of recovery or spirituality, of course.  While cycling can help enhance both, it can’t replace either.  Not for me, anyway – and I really wouldn’t want it to.

The Fitness

Once I hit 32 years-old, my skinny metabolism turned into a fat metabolism.  I missed this change and it tap-danced all over my gut.  I went from a skinny 150 pounds to almost 200 before I finally figured out what was going on.  Running fixed that for quite a while but I got into riding bikes as a desire to do triathlons to shake up my running a bit.  Within a few weeks I was happier on a bike.  Within a year I hardly ran anymore.  A year beyond that and I was cycling exclusively.  I felt spectacular, physically, and never looked back.  Today, I can lose weight at will, shock nurses and doctors with the fact that I don’t take any prescription medication at my age, and still have excellent bloodwork readings for virtually every test they can run.  Life, and fitness, are good.

The Friends

I travel with my wife and friends all over God’s green Earth to ride.  We do supported and unsupported rides.  We ride together, eat meals together and share laughs like we did when we were kids together…  We share life together.  I can’t imagine how having friends could be any better, and this includes my relationship with my wife.

The Toys

For those who choose sports cars as a hobby, they can expect to pay up to $500,000 for a Ferrari.  Worse, most people don’t know that purchasing the car is only half of the cost of owning a high-end sports car.  Maintaining one, now that gets expensive.  I ride the bicycle equivalent, or at least a McLaren, for an initial investment of $5,000… and yearly maintenance runs about $150 which includes a couple of new tires, a chain and a cassette – all of which I install myself.  I don’t need a Ferrari dealership nearby.  Just a free half-hour.

Interestingly, and perhaps controversially, my race bike cost $312.50 per pound, give or take.  On the other hand, a Ferrari 488 Spider only runs about $90 per pound.  The difference being my bike weighs less than my bowling ball.  A Ferrari?  A little more than 3,100 pounds, dry weight.

The upgrades are awesome too.  I wrote about my new brakes for the Venge last week.  They cost me $50 (Retail was closer to $150).  I installed them myself.

Try getting your brakes done for $150 on a sports car.  Brakes cost more than that on my Chevy.  Not only that, try to customize your high-end sports car like we can bikes.  Not a chance!

Finally, there’s the big deal…  This is the A-Number One reason to pick cycling over sports cars for a midlife crisis hobby:

To own and maintain five hyper-cars you have to be a Millionaire 200 times over.  To own and maintain five bikes?  Meh, middle-class will do just fine – and just remember one last important factor of cycling:  A car runs on your wallet.  A bike runs on your fat.

 

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Six Years of Happy Blogging

Six-Year Anniversary.JPG

WordPress sent me a notification, as they do every December 17th, reminding me that it’s been a new blog anniversary.  I’d be willing to bet this reminder came in around midnight last night, so I was sitting in a theater watching the new Star Wars movie (flipping phenomenal).  I’ve written in excess of 4,000 posts (I deleted more than 1,000 a couple of years ago so I’m not quite certain what the exact number is anymore) and if I figure an average of 500 words per post – and that’s underestimating by A LOT, that’d be 2,000,000 words, and the blog has been viewed 615,000 times (I’m running a little more than 125,000 hits a year over the last four years).

There is no doubt the blog has been fantastically rewarding for me, but not in a “look at me” way – the number of people who have thanked my for helping them with a recovery post is simply awesome when a handful would have done.  I was going to quit writing a couple of years ago, and those comments kept me coming back.  I’ve finally found my way to help my fellow alcoholics, recovering and not, that works

So, my friends, thanks for sharing this journey with me.

Bike Radar Takes a Long Walk off a Short Pier and Claims Cycling Shorts are better than Bibs

Well, technically Russell Eich, writing for Bike Radar, took a long walk off a short pier, but I figured I’d hit you with a clickbait title just as Bike Radar’s Editor did.  Why not?

I could get into dismantling his arguments against bibs and for shorts, but why bother?  Some people like shorts better than bibs, and I suppose the world will spin on with that reality.  Personally, I think he’s bat-$#!+ crazy, but that’s just me.

Like Russell, I have thousands of miles on my legs.  Like Russell, I’ve worn both bibs and shorts extensively – and I even made some of his same arguments for shorts on this blog.  One of my most popular posts of all time explains exactly what I look for when picking out cycling shorts…  One problem:  I made the arguments before I tried bibs – or more to the point, at least I have ignorance as an excuse.  In fact, one of Russell’s very reasons for preferring shorts is my main reason for going with bibs.  For Russell, he says the waistband isn’t a big deal.  For me, the waistband on shorts drives me flipping nuts.  I suffer from tight belt syndrome and have written about it before (it’s one of my more popular posts of late).  If I wear anything too tight around my waist, I end up with severe back pain.  Same with a wallet in my back pocket – fuhgeddaboutit.  Within a week I’ll be hobbled to a point I’ll be hating life.  While the waistband on a pair of shorts isn’t nearly as bad as a tight belt for me, it does cause unnecessary pain and the way I see it, why ride around in pain if you don’t have to?  In my case, putting up with shoulder straps is worth not having a waistband.

That said and to put this simply, choosing shorts or bibs is personal.  Personally, I prefer bibs.  Mr. Eich apparently prefers shorts.  To claim that everyone who prefers the other is wrong or worse, daft, is over the top.

Of course, this, ahem, subdued reality doesn’t exactly generate clicks, either.

Bibs:


Shorts:

You say tomato…  I say keep your mits off my bibs, bro.

I Gotta Buy Me Some Bitcoin!  The One Economist Who got Me to Change My Mind…

Paul Krugman says Bitcoin is a more obvious bubble than the housing market crash.  I thought the same thing… till I found out what he thought.

Anyone who knows anything about economics knows you do the exact opposite that which is recommended by the Pulitzer Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman.

UPDATE:  My friend, and fellow cyclist who actually reported on the market for many years commented that, for once, Krugman might be right on Bitcoin.  I really have no desire or plans to buy Bitcoin, this post is more to point out the humorous “Do the Opposite of Krugman” rule.

Making the Most of My Time on the Trainer, Listening to My Heinie… err, “Body”

If you hadn’t guessed by the Title, I don’t like the “listen to your body” meme.  Listen to my body?  If I did that, I’d spend much more time eating and sitting on the freaking couch.  My body says, “Hey, smartass, cut this cycling $#!+ out!  Why don’t you take a day off or somethin’!”  I tell my body it will comply, and for the other 23 hours of the day I feel better for it.

With the onset of winter, more than a couple of weeks early, I’ve been spending the proper amount of time on the trainer.  Some of my friends, Titanium Henry and Brent to name two, are trying to push me into picking up fat bikes up for Mrs. Bgddy and me.  I’m not buying, though.  I know this is heresy, but I’m at a point where I’ve got so many bikes I’m feeling a little guilty for having so much wrapped up into them.  I don’t have room for my snow blower let alone another bike.

This year, while I do deride my time on the beast trainer on the blog, I’ve been enjoying it more than usual – I haven’t missed a day since the weather turned to crap, three weeks ago.  While I’m waiting for the first of the New Year to really kick it in the butt, I haven’t been taking it easy either.

More important, the trainer provides the perfect platform to dial in and fine tune the set-up on my bikes and cleats, if needed.  I don’t have to worry about traffic or balance and I can easily concentrate on how I feel on the bike.  I adjusted my right cleat a bit a couple of weeks ago and that worked out well.  I ran into another problem that required a small adjustment last night as well…  It turns out, with certain bibs, my Trek’s saddle is a little high.  I’ve got three pair with a thicker chamois and two are reserved for riding the Specialized only (I have a softer saddle on the Trek to smooth out the ride a little bit, otherwise it’s pretty harsh – the Venge has hardly any padding on the saddle).

So there I am putting in my time on the turbo last night and I just couldn’t get comfortable with the thicker chamois (we’re only talking a millimeter, it really shouldn’t matter).  First my hip was hurting, then my right foot, then my sit bones (all lower half of the body related)…  30 minutes in, I’d had enough.  I hopped off the trainer and went into the bike room to get my wrenches.  I lowered the saddle one millimeter.  Just one.  Foot pain gone, inside of the thigh pain gone, hip pain gone.

When I’m out on the road there are far too many variables.  Out of the saddle going up hills and during City Limits sign sprints, in the drops, on the hoods, on the bar top…  I’m all over the bike when I’m outside.  Indoors, I’m on the hoods, butt in the happy spot on the saddle, pedal, 90 RPM cadence for 45 minutes.  Period, end of story.  That much time in one spot helps to isolate little pains here and there, so I can really concentrate on what’s right and what might need tweaking.

One thing everyone will tell you about fitting bikes to the cyclist:  It’s rarely set it and forget it.  I had the set-up on the Trek dialed in for almost two years now, it worked fine.  No longer though.

So yes, the trainer (or rollers – pick your poison) sucks.  Use the time to feel your bike out.  If there’s a tweak needed, it’ll show up while you’re putting in your torture time.

20170420_162719

It makes you wonder… If they had the technology back in the medieval period, would they have had one or two of these in the dungeon?

Some photos from happier, warmer times:

The 2017 Cycling Season Officially Ends in Michigan… Yesterday.

It’s all over but the shoutin’, folks.  Oh, and I should clarify, Southeastern Michigan.  Up North and the Upper Peninsula don’t even bother cancelling school for 8″ of snow.  They just pull out the snowmobiles.  They called my kids’ school off before it even started snowing and they’re off again today.

Cycling and the Law: How Much should be Followed? And how Closely?

Trigger (heh) Warning:  The following is an opinion piece.  It is my opinion of the Law in my State.  It may not reflect the law in your State or Country.  Knowing your laws is not my freaking job (heck, I barely know the laws in my own State!), it’s your job.  This post is meant to be a humorous look at how cycling laws actually work – and how that differs from intention.  In this off-season, I do plan on interviewing local and State law enforcement to get a better understanding of “how law works” but that’s for a different post.  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

The cycling club received an interesting email forwarded from a cyclist/attorney in the club.  The sender and I don’t always see eye to eye on matters – mostly because she has a tendency to blame motorist’s angst against cyclists on “the fast riders”.  Like me.  She didn’t have to bring it up this time, though.  The email hit that note already.

Nothing gets me going like the misplaced, misguided bony finger of blame.

That said, the gist of the email centered around cycling Law and how lawyers will sink to any level they can to make it look like the cyclist is to blame for getting himself/herself run over.  It’s noble enough, the email, if a little silly in its wrongheadedness in certain points.  The idea being, motorists hate us, so follow the rules of the road so they won’t – and God forbid, one of those motorists runs you over, it’ll be better to be able to say that you always stop for stop signs and stop lights.  Seriously.

Rather than break down the whole email, I’ll just get into some specific points, quickly.  Then we’ll do some fun math.

Why It Matters if We Run Stop Signs and Red Lights on Our Bike

Well, for one, if you make it a habit of running red lights, we won’t have to worry about you being a cyclist for very long.  You’ll be a spot on the ground resembling a Jackson Pollock painting before long.  Problem solved.  The stop signs, now that gets interesting:

Questions followed such as: “Do you stop for stop signs and stop lights when you ride? Do you recall ever riding through one without stopping?” Setting aside whether those responses would be admitted at a trial, how bad would it have been for him if he had to truthfully admit he commonly failed to stop or even that there were occasions when he did not stop.

Okay, stop right there.  Stopping for stop signs.  Law requires that we stop, actually stop at a stop sign, yes?  Yes.  A stop is considered a foot down on the ground, stop.  Then go.  Now, imagine a 25 cyclist deep group cruising down the road, as law allows, two-abreast.  We come to a stop sign and the first two stop, foot down, and go.  The next two slide up, foot down, and go.  The next two repeat until all 25 cyclists are down the road.  Typically you’ve got three seconds plus another ten (to get through) in between each two going through the intersection.  That’s the letter of the Law.  That’s not what we do, though.  We get to an intersection, wave traffic through, then we all go en masse (two abreast).  The letter of the Law takes more than two minutes for a group to clear an intersection.  The right way takes between five seconds and 20.

Now, how happy do you think motorists are going to be if we follow the letter of the Law?  Do you think a driver stuck behind that idiocy will say, “Oh, look Helen!  Those cyclists are stopping as they should at a stop sign!”  Uh, no.  After twenty seconds he’s going to lose his freaking mind – because that’s about the attention span of a motorist.  More:

Second, when I speak to cycling groups I remind them how much animosity exists on the part of drivers against cyclists. The comments we hear from prospective jurors about this is astonishing. Too many of them consider us to be reckless law breakers who do not stop at lights and block the entire lane on group rides.

Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty!  I’ve done the math on this page once before, but let’s do it again.  Figure a 25 cyclist group (we’ve had up to 40).  No intelligent cyclist is going to give up the lane, so whether a motorist is passing a single file line or a double pace-line “blocking the entire lane”, the motorist is going to have to cross the yellow into the oncoming traffic lane to pass the cyclists.  Put simply, a single-file line is twice as difficult to pass because it’s twice as long.  Figure a bike is 6 feet long (or two meters).  Add an extra foot for the space between the wheels and you’ve got seven feet per bike.  Multiply that by 25:  175′.  Double pace-line?  91′ (you have to account for that odd 25th cyclist, so you’re multiplying by 13 instead of 12).  Better, multiply that out with a larger 40 person group.  No motorist would be able to pass a group in those conditions.  How angry do you think motorists would be then?  Words cannot convey.

Better, legislation has been proposed by states that would limit drafting groups to 4 cyclists that must be separated by ten to twenty feet.  Do the math on how long that 25 person single-file group would be with ten more feet in between each four cyclists…  235 feet.  Five full-length semi-trailers.

Folks, you think motorists are angry now, let’s follow the rules as they’re written and you’ll see how wrong you really are.  You haven’t seen anger yet.

On the plus-side, as they’re flying by chucking pop bottles out the window at us, at least we’ll be able to claim the moral high ground.

UPDATE: I should add, I do, at every chance, give a vehicle the right of way whether it’s mine or not. We cyclist never tend to win in a fight against a vehicle so I always figured better safe than sorry.